The navigation (or main menu) on your online shop is such an important aspect of your website but it’s one area I see small businesses get in a muddle over all the time.

So what is your navigation?

Your navigation or main menu is the place people go to continue their journey​​​​​​​​ through your website, to eventually buy stuff.

It’s pretty much the first thing people see and probably one of the places nearly everyone who comes to your website will use in some way.

So you know it’s important but how do you know what to put there?

I get that building websites doesn’t come naturally to you, so let’s think about something we all do instead and apply that to your Shopify website

Your navigation should be a like a really good restaurant menu...​

❌️ That means no big menu with way too much choice 

✅️ Your menu should be concise, clear and as little choice as possible

❌️ That also means no confusing and unclear names for things.

✅️ Your menu should have simple and easy-to-understand category names

❌️ That means we don’t want customers unsure what’s actually going to turn up for lunch

✅️ Your menu should let your customers know exactly what the next page they arrive on is going to serve up

So whenever you’re tinkering with your Shopify main menu or struggling to actually make changes, keep these 4 key principles in mind:

Less is more
Show what you sell
Understandable headings
〰 Zero clutter

Need more help? ​​​​​Here are 6 ways you can instantly improve your main menu (and they don’t take long to sort out either):

1. Users read from left to right 

So it's no surprise that most big brands are now using the left-right navigation, if you want to do the same make sure your logo is on the left hand side and then follow with your most important collections (usually new or your key selling category) and continue to your least popular category

2. Be your customers guide

Help your customers get where they need to go and ideally with as few clicks as possible. Think about how your product range is best shown and remember to use submenus where you need to. A new in and / or best seller option is great here too as it shows new customers what other customers like and returning customers can easily get to the new stuff

3. Remove the home button now

We all know to click a logo to get back to the homepage, and it’s not really where you want to send customers anyway. You want them to use the navigation and collection pages to further delve into your website and find something to buy. A home button stops that happen and it can be super confusing if you happen to sell homewares too!

4. Make search easy to find and use

Some customers know what they are looking for and won't want to trawl through your collections to find it. So make sure they can easily search for what they want by having a search bar or icon available. Also make sure that your search shows them relevant products and collections and doesn’t send them to a ‘no results returned’ page

5. Keep out the clutter

Make sure the pages you do not need in your navigation are relegated to the footer. I’m talking about your contact, about page, blog, or policies. Keep the navigation as concise as possible and focused solely on the buyer's journey towards products

6. Mobile first design

Finally, remember to check how your menu actually looks on both mobile and desktop, as the more you add sometimes it can change the way it looks and disrupt the overall design. I usually see beautiful mega menus on small business online shops and then I go to mobile and it just doesn’t work. You’re more than likely getting the majority of your traffic and sales from mobile devices now, so try and focus on designing this way and how somebody holding a phone, using their thumbs will be using your menu

Now g​​​​​o and see if your menu is helping your customers or perhaps it’s leaving them unsure what to choose and where to go. 

It needs to work for them, and not only actually make sense to you. 

Finally, if you’re an online shop please make sure your menu makes it easy to shop and NEVER forget the ultimate purpose of your website​​​​​​​ is to sell things.

August 23, 2023 — Elle Williamson
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Hi, I’m Elle. I specialise in all things ecommerce for small businesses selling and growing online. I created The Ecommerce Assistant to help busy brand owners make more sales on their online shop by teaching them how to use Shopify + Klaviyo.